Escherichia coli cells lacking low-molecular-weight penicillin-binding proteins (LMW PBPs) exhibit morphological alterations that also appear when the septal protein FtsZ is mislocalized, suggesting that peptidoglycan modification and division may work together to produce cell shape. We found that in strains lacking PBP5 and other LMW PBPs, higher FtsZ concentrations increased the frequency of branched cells and incorrectly oriented Z rings by 10- to 15-fold. Invagination of these rings produced improperly oriented septa, which in turn gave rise to asymmetric cell poles that eventually elongated into branches. Branches always originated from the remnants of abnormal septation events, cementing the relationship between aberrant cell division and branch formation. In the absence of PBP5, PBP6 and DacD localized to nascent septa, suggesting that these PBPs can partially substitute for the loss of PBP5. We propose that branching begins when mislocalized FtsZ triggers the insertion of inert peptidoglycan at unusual positions during cell division. Only later, after normal cell wall elongation separates the patches, do branches become visible. Thus, a relationship between the LMW PBPs and cytoplasmic FtsZ ultimately affects cell division and overall shape.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.